The Leadership Challenge

The Leadership Challenge The prevailing business paradigm of maximization, monoculture, self - interest and short - termism is weakening its own resilience, in turn sowing the seeds of its own demise. Our prevalent business concepts, values, perceptions and practices are being disrupted and systematically challenged. This crisis provides the perfect situation for individuals, leaders and organizations to retrench (clinging fearfully to outdated mindsets) or transform (embracing new ways of operating). For those able to adapt in these volatile times, they face nothing less than a shift to a new business paradigm; a way forward that seeks to enhance life and living rather than destroying it.

When Charles Darwin published his ‘Origin of species’, the phrase ‘ survival of the fittest’ was quickly co - opted and distorted by powerful elites to promote the idea that only the biggest, strongest, and most powerful can survive. In reality, what Darwin found and described in his findings was that those organisms with th e greatest ability to adapt to their local environment – the ‘fittest’ in the sense of the best fit - would survive when and where others would fail. He found that sensing, responding, adapting, and aligning with a nd within the local ecosystem are key to sur vival. Recent scientific discoveries, coupled with advances in systems thinking and quantum theory, continue to build on these findings, and uncover a more complex and complete view of nature, the wor kings of the universe, and the evolution of life. Divers ity, flexibility and collaboration, we find is core to the interwoven evolutionary journey of life - the driving forces that provide resilience and regeneration within species and ecosystems.

findings, and uncover a more complex and complete view of nature, the wor kings of the universe, and the evolution of life. Divers ity, flexibility and collaboration, we find is core to the interwoven evolutionary journey of life - the driving forces that provide resilience and regeneration within species and ecosystems.

We need to shift from take/make/waste economic paradigm to a regenerative approach that will heal society and the ‘ web of life ’ rather than destroying life in the name of short - term gain. An example here is the Kingfisher Gro up aiming to be a ‘net positive’ force for good in the world. We need to reconnect and reconcile our human relationship with life/nature and our own authentic human nature (re - establishing our vital bond with ourselves, our neighbors and the ‘ web of life ’ within which we are a part of through education, authentic leadership and eco - psychology). An example here is the co - founder of Natura, Pedro Passo, who instills a business culture that understands our interrelatedness with nature and community. We need t o rekindle our wisdom: working with the grain of nature and operating within the rules of life on Earth (enabling businesses and societies not merely to ‘sustain’ but to thrive in the years ahead by practicing wise approaches to life that draw on, for inst ance: symbiosis, ecological thinking, permaculture, systems thinking and systems being, presencing and indigenous wisdom). An example here would be Weleda with its biodynamic philosophy and its holistic approach to all aspects of its business.

All biologic al systems have an emergent quality, as all living structures (including social and organizational) are emergent structures. Emergence has a self - generating quality, where individual parts of an ecosystem interact to provide an emergent order (an unfolding of events that are self fuelled by the actions and interactions of the parts). Emergence is when an organized, complex and/or cohesive pattern or result arises - often unpredictably - from a series of individually simple component interactions.

Emergent leade rship (as referred to by Fritjof Capra) encourages an environment of continual questioning and new approaches to problems. This culture of emergence needs to spread beyond the organisation to the stakeholder community, hence encouraging emergence across th e business ecosystem, thus improving resilience of the whole and the parts.

Increasingly as an organisation is required to become more emergent so leadership is more about empowering, empathizing and encouraging interconnecti ons, innovation, local attunmen t and an active network of feedback. As organizations and business ecosystems become more self organizing and self empowering, the working environment and culture becomes more emot ionally and mentally healthy, where business goals are met without sacrifici ng personal values and integrity - i n fact quite the contrary, where work acts to reinforce personal integrity in providing a rich emergent experience for individual and collective learning and ethical growth.

It is up to us to unlock our creative potentia l, to evolve and utilize our talents to our best endeavors, and it is also up to us to help others to unlock their creative potential in their time of need, and in so doing helping them help themselves and others. The more we open up to our environment, th e more we tune in to the interconnected nature of business life, sensing and responding in the most optimal way. Positive virtuous cycles start to unlock as people find the optimal pathways for their own value creation potential, with the desire to overcom e challenges, learn, evolve, and share experiences.

"The essence of deep ecology, is to ask deeper questions”, is the refrain from Arne Naess. This is also the essence of a paradigm shift. We need to be prepared to question every single aspect of the old paradigm. Eventually we will not need to throw everything away, but before we know that we need to be willing to question everything. So deep ecology asks profound questions about th e very foundations of our modern, scientific, industrial, growth orientated, materialistic worldview and way of life. It questions this entire paradigm from an ecological perspective: from the perspective of our relationships to one another, to future gene rations, and to the ‘ web of life ’ of which we are part. Our historical discourse value competition, expansion, domination, and rationality - all of which are generally associated with men. Indeed, in patriarchal society they are not only favored but also g iven economic rewards and political power. This is one of the reasons why the shift to a more balanced value system is so difficult for most people and especially for men.

Power, is the sense of domination over others, is excessive self - assertion. The soc ial structure in which it is exerted most effectively is the hierarchy. Indeed, our political, military, and corporate structures are hierarchically ordered, with men generally occupying the upper levels and women the lower levels. Most of these men, and s ome women, have come to see their position in the hierarchy as part of their identity, and thus to shift to a different system of values generates existential fear in them.

However, there is another kind of power, one that is more appropriate for a new par adigm - power as influence of others. The ideal structure of exerting this kind of power is not the hierarchy but the network, which, is also the central metaphor of ecology. The paradigm shift therefore includes a shift in social organisation from hierarc hies to networks. Therefore the leader who is emergent, adaptive, network orientated and gains wisdom from ecology will have a greater possibility of shifting from the old paradigm of competition and domination to the new ecological frontier of interconnec tedness, resilience, and empowerment. This will provide an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that will allow us to build and sustain communities and enterprises without diminishing the opportunities of future generations.